It's pretty much a formality at this point, but Judge Michael Kenny has issued his final judgement in the case of Atherton v. CHSRA, ordering the CHSRA to revise the EIR for the Bay Area to Central Valley segment of the project to address the concerns over noise/vibration and ROW sharing with UPRR that the judge cited in his initial decision. See both the Final Judgement document and the Peremptory Writ of Mandate below, and then my comments:
Final Judgment in Atherton v. CHSRA
Peremptory Writ of Mandate
As we explained earlier, the judge rejected plaintiffs' request to stay further HSR work. According the the CHSRA, this outcome does not impede them from continuing to move forward as they currently are with project-level EIR and design work, and should not jeopardize stimulus funding. The judge did not order a complete reopening of the full EIR process, and CHSRA is confident they can submit the revisions on time. The judge gave CHSRA 70 days to show their compliance (by decertifying the EIR - they have more time than that to finalize the revisions; thanks to the comments for pointing this out)
although exactly what that means isn't precisely clear in the documents.
Although we'll hear the project opponents and those that filed the lawsuit claim victory here, it's difficult to see how those claims can be justified. The Pacheco alignment is upheld, CHSRA can continue to plan and design the system, they'll still be getting federal stimulus funds, and the judge has given them wide latitude in how they comply with the order to revise the EIR. Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of the plaintiffs' claims, particularly the main ones about the Pacheco alignment, were thrown out. The plaintiffs basically got lucky in that the judge found some other parts of the EIR that the plaintiffs never really focused on were deficient and necessitated a revision.
What was promised to us in the summer of 2008 as a lawsuit that would stop the project in its tracks and blow up the route decision has essentially fizzled. CHSRA will produce an improved EIR and address the UPRR issue, something they needed to do anyhow. The plaintiffs will get their court costs paid, but otherwise they've failed to accomplish their goals of undermining the HSR project.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009